Jeff Koons - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips
  • Description

    Please note that this lot is subject to a guarantee by a third party with a financial interest who will bid and may continue to bid on this lot.

  • Video

    Jeff Koons, 'Hulk (Friends)', Lot 32

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Sonnabend Gallery, New York
    RBS Collection
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Frankfurt, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Jeff Koons, The Sculptor, June 20 - September 23, 2012, pp. 114, 188 (illustrated, p. 115)
    Brussels, Almine Rech Gallery, Jeff Koons, October 6 - November 15, 2012, pp. 36, 89 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 37; installation views of another example illustrated, pp. 30, 33, 38, 40)
    Paris, Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Empire State. New York Art Now, November 17, 2013 - February 15, 2014 (another example exhibited)
    Hong Kong, Gagosian, Jeff Koons: Hulk Elvis, November 6 - December 20, 2014, p. 32 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 34; details of another example illustrated, front cover and pp. 33-35)
    Vienna, Galerie Belvedere, Jeff Koons – Hulk (Friends), September 4 - October 5, 2015 (another example exhibited)
    Porto, Museu Serralves, A Coleção Sonnabend / The Sonnabend Collection. Part II, May 11 - September 23, 2018, pp. 120, 133 (another example exhibited and illustrated, front cover and p. 121)
    Mexico City, Museo Jumex, Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Appearance Stripped Bare: Desire and the Object in the Work of Marcel Duchamp and Jeff Koons, Even, May 19 - September 29, 2019, pp. 224, 240, 253 (details of another example exhibited and illustrated, pp. 4-5; another example illustrated, p. 241)

  • Literature

    George Pendle, "Welcome to the Funhouse", The American Visual Arts in China, Summer/Fall 2012, p. 37 (Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Frankfurt, 2012 installation view illustrated)
    "Jeff Koons's New Sculptures, Sexy Contemporary Antiques", The Economist, July 7-13, 2012, p. 76 (another example illustrated)
    Andrew LaSane, “Jeff Koons’s “Hulk Elvis” Exhibition Opens Soon at Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong”, Complex, October 17, 2014, online (another example illustrated)
    Darryl Wee, “Jeff Koons Opens Solo Show at Gagosian Hong Kong”, BLOUIN ARTINFO, November 6, 2014, online (another example illustrated)
    Michael Polsinelli and Sasha Burkhanova, “The Words”, Garage Magazine, Fall/Winter 2014, p. 87 (another example illustrated)
    Gagosian, November 2014 - January 2015, p. 138 (detail of another example illustrated, front and back cover)

  • Catalogue Essay

    "They’re there as protectors…but at the same time they can become very, very violent... The Hulks are like that—they’re really high-testosterone symbols” – Jeff Koons

    Hulk (Friends), 2004-2012, extends Jeff Koons’s career-long engagement with child-like wonderment and transmutation, elegantly captured through his use of inflatables. At once menace and protector, Koons’s Hulk (Friends) is an inflatable toy brought to life with awe-inspiring exactitude. The artist’s decision to bring the Marvel comics hero into his pantheon of imagery was inspired by his son: "I saw him standing in front of a mirror, seeing his whole body for the first time…It reminded me of Andy Warhol's Elvis - it was a male identity thing…” (Jeff Koons, quoted in Fionnuala McHugh, “Jeff Koons brings artworks to Hong Kong”, South China Morning Post, November 19, 2014, online).

    Koons's Hulks together form a series of large-scale inflatable characters that include such playful subjects as monkeys, caterpillars, and dolphins. The most successful of these works from the early 2000s are from Koons's Hulk series, and their immediate precursor, Popeye, which expand upon the artist’s ongoing dialogue with the readymade and American Pop culture. As Katy Siegel notes, Koons's engagement with the Marvel comics hero is one “in a long string of self-made men that before Superman and Popeye included Dr. Dunkenstein, Jesus Christ, and Michael Jackson” (Katy Siegel in, Hans Werner Holzwarth, ed., Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 510). Hulk (Friends) is emblematic of Koons’s chosen cast of characters who are all “distinguished by a physical—rather than psychological—transformation of speed, skill, size, costume, or coloration (the King of Pop turns white just as the Hulk turns green). That is, they seem to change from the outside in, often in response to some material event (downing a can of spinach, exposure to radioactivity), or in pursuit of a social reward (cultural or athletic stardom)” (Katy Siegel, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 510).

    Hulk (Friends) extends Koons’s career-long engagement with inflatable objects, a central tenet in his diverse practice. In earlier series, Koons displayed inflatables on mirrors and then later transformed the vinyl inflatables into bronze and stainless steel sculptures. The inflatable object and its ability to provide a commentary on high and low art, the readymade and the veracity of the gaze, have all ensured it as an enduring motif in the artist’s practice. As Katy Siegel espouses, “Koons’s continued involvement with inflatables is also, of course, a quotation of his own art-historical past” (Katy Siegel, Jeff Koons, Cologne, 2009, p. 510). Conceived with an astonishing exactitude, Koons has ensured the accurate representation of every facet of the source object when transformed in bronze. In so doing, Koons puts Hulk’s ostensible strength in jeopardy, retaining the Achilles’ heel in the inclusion of the air valve. The use of the trompe l’oeil technique evokes the work of master Renaissance sculptors such as Michelangelo and Bernini whose deft manipulation of marble could convey an array of textures, from the suppleness of skin to the gauziness of cloth. Koons too revels in the alchemical possibilities inherent in his artistic transmutation, reproducing each dimple and divot of inflated plastic in his chosen medium of cast bronze, captivating the eye and betraying the senses.

    It is the Hulk’s ability to transform that makes him the ultimate protector; an inconspicuous scientist turns into a hulking green mass of power and menace when provoked. Speaking of his Hulks, Koons notes their connection to both Western comic-book culture and Eastern guardian gods: “They’re there as protectors…but at the same time they can become very, very violent... The Hulks are like that—they’re really high-testosterone symbols” (Jeff Koons, artist statement, Gagosian, online). This quality is perhaps most aptly captured in Hulk (Friends) where the six inflatable critters perched on his shoulders operate as both protected charges and goading audience. Like a child turning to a cherished toy for comfort, Hulk becomes a Golem in Koons’s world, “a guardian, a protector, that at the same time is capable of bringing the house down” (Jeff Koons, quoted in Fionnuala McHugh, “Jeff Koons brings artworks to Hong Kong”, South China Morning Post, November 19, 2014, online).


Hulk (Friends)

polychromed bronze
71 1/4 x 48 1/2 x 26 in. (181 x 123.2 x 66 cm.)
Executed in 2004-2012, this work is number 1 from an edition of 3 plus 1 artist’s proof.

$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for $3,380,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019